Review: Revealing SeaWorld’s secrets

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Gabriela Cowperthwaite/Magnolia Pictures

When you imagine SeaWorld, what do you picture? You might picture smiling children eating cotton candy, and riding the Shamu Express. Perhaps you imagine happy healthy animals circling their enclosures, doing tricks not to be feed but just for your enjoyment.

The documentary “Blackfish,” directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, uncovers the secrets that SeaWorld has worked hard to keep hidden, and educates viewers on the true facts about orca whales. In just one hour and 23 minutes, this movie disproves everything you thought to be true about SeaWorld.

The film focuses on multiple trainers who have worked at SeaWorld, including Dawn Brancheau who was killed in an accident involving an orca whale named Tilikum in 2010. SeaWorld was quick to blame Brancheau for her fate so that no one would question the overall safety of the trainers.

Many people interviewed in the movie were enraged that they put the blame for her death. In the film, John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld trainer, shared his disgust at the way SeaWorld handled Brancheau’s death, stating in an interview, “How dare you? How disrespectful of you to blame her when she isn’t even alive to defend herself?”

In the past, there were two options when dealing with an accident involving a trainer: to put all the blame on the trainer, or on the orca responsible. “Blackfish” changes that, showing us who is really to blame: the people who imprisoned a wild animal. On average, female orcas live 80 to 90 years in the wild while they live 30 years at most in captivity. “Blackfish” shares the facts that SeaWorld and other water animal parks do not want you to know.

“Blackfish” is mostly composed of interviews with former SeaWorld trainers, former whale capturers, a few orca experts, and even emotional interviews with the family of a trainer who was killed by an orca whale. However, the film also uses clever visuals to keep the movie interesting

Viewers get to experience the action first hand in clips from past shows at SeaWorld, some of which go well and others not so much. Simple cartoon drawings share with the audience what happened when the head trainer and owner of SeaWorld attended court after the death of a trainer.

For a movie that played in only five movie theaters and was produced with a budget of only $76,000, “Blackfish” has had a shocking amount of success. Although the movie was released in July, it has not been widely acknowledged until recently.

The rise in popularity of this film is thanks to CNN. On Oct. 24, CNN aired “Blackfish,” which was the first time many people had heard of the movie. In fact, “Blackfish” might be an Oscar nominee this year for best documentary.

The horrible truth of the treatment of the orcas at SeaWorld and the lack of safety for trainers is surprising. Although it is extremely sad, “Blackfish” will keep you watching, and in the end, you are more informed about an issue that hopefully we can all work together to resolve.

Our Grade: A

“Blackfish”

Rating: PG-13

Length: 83 minutes

Genre: Documentary

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite